Useful computer hardware add-ons

Post your cool hardware add-ons that really improve the use of your computers.

In my case, I’ve recently settled on a couple of little hardware devices that have really helped wrangle my use of multiple computers. I currently have 3 – a Chromebook, Windows desktop, and a work laptop, for my home office. My main Dell monitor has plenty of inputs and fairly easy front panel input switching, so connecting multiple computers to it works rather well.

For keyboard and mouse switching, I’ve settled on the IO Gear 4 port USB switcher. It allows you to connect up to 4 computers (they also have a 2 port version) to it, in order to share 4 USB ports. These ports can be anything really (printers, keyboards, mice, thumb drives, etc.). Some things will work better than others depending upon each computer’s OS. For keyboards and mice, I’ve had no problems. I have my Code Keyboard and Logitech MX Master mouse connected to the IO Gear, and can easily cycle through all 3 computers pretty rapidly using the wired remote button (shown attached to the upper right edge of my keyboard in the photo). Super useful for using a single keyboard/mouse for multiple computers.

Previously, I had used many combinations of software solutions (Synergy, Input Director, etc.) and specialized cables for sharing the keyboard/mouse, but nothing was as solid as this device. highly recommended.

The other area of having multiple computers that is a real pain, is managing the audio outputs. Sure, you could have 3 sets of speakers or something, but that’s not great. I really need to keep my work laptop’s audio on all day so I can listen for email and Skype alerts, but also want to have my main desktop playing tunes or a podcast. I just recently discovered this cool little audio mixer, the Rolls MiniMix II (shown below). It allows me to take the audio outs from all 3 computers, individually adjust the levels, and sen the output to my desktop speakers (or a set of wireless headphones that I have plugged into the front of the device). This works better than I expected, with no additional noise added to the output. It’s a solid little device.

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